Equinox Explained: Why Earth’s Seasons Will Change on Sunday
The seasons will change this Sunday (Sept. 22), with the Northern Hemisphere moving into autumn and the South emerging from winter into spring.
The celestial event that marks this transition is called an “equinox,” and it happens twice every year, around March 21 and Sept. 21. Just what is an equinox, and why does it occur?
The Earth moves in two different ways. First, the planet spins on its polar axis — a line through the north and south poles — once every 24 hours, causing the alternation of day and night. Secondly, it moves in its orbit around the sun once every 365.25 days, causing the annual cycle of seasons. The equinox occurs when these two motions intersect.
Because the Earth is so big, its mass has an enormously powerful gyroscopic effect. For this reason, its poles always point in the same direction, although a major earthquake can cause tiny wobbles in this axis. Most importantly, the Earth’s motion around the sun has absolutely no effect on the direction the poles are pointing, which has very important consequences for Earth’s seasons.
Astronomers mark the positions of objects in the sky relative to the Earth’s poles of rotation (those are the red lines you see in the picture). The most important line is the celestial equator, which divides the sky into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
The Earth’s pole of rotation is tilted 23.4 degrees relative to the plane of its orbit. This tilt is always toward the same point in the sky, called the celestial pole, no matter where in its orbit around the sun the Earth happens to be.
This tilt makes it appear to observers on Earth’s surface that the sun is moving across the sky at an angle to the celestial equator. This is marked by the green line in the image, called the “ecliptic” because eclipses happen along this line.
Twice a year, the sun crosses the celestial equator, moving from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere, or vice versa. These two crossings are very important for the inhabitants of Earth, because they mark the change in the direction the sun’s rays fall on Earth.
Specifically, on Sunday, the sun will move from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. It will pass overhead everywhere along the Earth’s equator on that date, and the sun will rise exactly in the east and set exactly in the west. Day and night will also be of roughly equal length. (“Equinox” is derived from the Latin for “equal night.”)
After Sunday, the sun will shine more on the southern half of our planet and less on the northern half. Summer will be over in the Northern Hemisphere, and fall will have arrived. Winter will be over in the south, and spring will begin.
The sun will continue on its path southward for the next three months, reaching its southernmost point on Dec. 21, the date of the “solstice.” In the Northern Hemisphere, the days will become shorter, the nights longer, and the temperatures colder during this three-month trek, all as a result of the sun’s being south of the celestial equator.
It’s always important to remember that this is part of a cycle, and that after Dec. 21 the sun will start moving northward again, and spring will be on its way.
Mabon, another name for this Equinox, is the second of three harvest festivals and a time to reflect on the what this year has given us. I call this the “Witches’ Thanksgiving,” and celebrate with a full “traditional” Thanksgiving meal. Even if you can’t go all out today, try to take in something of the season, an apple, a slice of pumpkin pie, some acorn squash, and get a sense of autumn.
Consider the positive and negative things that have come into your life over the past 9 months, and how you want to address those things - either with a spirit of thanksgiving, or with and energy to change.
But most of all, celebrate the fruits of your accomplishments, the things you’ve put efforts into this year that you are now seeing the rewards.
Let yourself be swept away in the magick of Fall…
Complete with a tweed skirt, Van Gogh inspired cuff, galactic rings, TARDIS blue accents and signature burgundy shoes instead of bow tie. Now you can dress like a fan-girl and still go to that meeting.
So I went out the other day to grab some more Autumn scented candles and found Bath and Body Works’ Pumpkin Pecan Waffle:
If you like sweet scents this is amazing but I realized that it smells exactly like Oatmeal Scotchies baking in the oven! If you’ve never had these, do yourself a favor and give them a try.
Oatmeal Scotchies Recipe
- 1 pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 cups oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
- 1 package (11 oz.) butterscotch flavored chips
Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars together until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Sift in flour, baking soda salt and cinnamon and mix gently until just combined. Fold in oats and butterscotch morsels.
Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets about 1-2 inches apart, they will spread out as they cook.
Bake 7 to 8 minutes for a chewy cookie or 9 to 10 minutes for a crisp cookie.
I prefer these extra large and chewy. Just add larger spoonfuls and let them cook until just turning golden brown around the edges. It’s okay if they’re a little soft in the middle as long as they aren’t jiggling - they will set as they cool.
Happy Autumn Baking!
Absolutely! It’s The Saxon Double Braided Scarf found here:
Today is the first day that really feels like Autumn, so I’m burning some cinnamon candles, opening all the windows, and working on my scarf.